Uppsala, Sweden and Honolulu, Hawaiʻi
In preparation for an extended Costa Rica visit during the fall of 2009, we sought some outdoor volunteer work that we could perform during our visit. We had really enjoyed San Gerardo de Rivas during our 2003 visit, so we decided to look for volunteer opportunities nearby.
The Cloudbridge Reserve seemed ideal, but it seemed to cater mainly to volunteers who were involved in academic research. However, Cloudbridge is open to visitors interested in learning about the cloud forest ecosystem, how it has been damaged, and how it is being repaired. Public hiking trails through Cloudbridge include many informational signs that provide visitors with opportunities to learn. We hoped that we could help in this area since we were not involved with academic research.
We told Genevieve Giddy that we were enthusiastic 60-somethings with tropical trail maintenance experience with the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, that we would not need lodging at Cloudbridge, and that we would strive to minimize our need for supervision. We were very happy that Genevieve and Tom Gode decided to give us an opportunity to help.
During most mornings over a two-week period in November, we walked from the Hotel Uran to Cloudbridge to begin our work day. Our workdays were almost always interrupted by rain that started around noon and continued through the afternoon. However, we weren’t always sad when the rains began because accessing some of our work locations required us to hike considerable distances up rather steep tropical trails, and the work was occasionally quite physical.
Nevertheless, we were able to
⦾ survey existing trails and prepare a report suggesting how potentially dangerous trail conditions could be improved;
⦾ clean accumulated grime off of the many informational signs along Cloudbridge trails;
⦾ replace missing tags on small trees that had been planted as part of a reforestation project;
⦾ assist in the building of a new fence;
⦾ repair eroded trails on steep slopes;
⦾ trim excess root growth off of potted seedlings;
⦾ take measurements that were used by others to design and build new gates on trails into Cloudbridge.
In general, Tom kept us quite busy while apparently being able to fulfill his own responsibilities; i.e., he found things for us to do that did not require too much supervision. As a result of our wonderful and memorable experience, we encourage anyone interested in volunteering for such satisfying work to contact Cloudbridge. This experience was one of the highlights of our ten-week Costa Rica visit. Giving something back to nature is always rewarding.
As a bonus, our Cloudbridge work was an excellent preparation for our Mt. Chirripó ascent. We haven’t been in such good physical condition in quite some time!